Just hours before going on a shooting rampage at his Hialeah apartment complex, gunman Pedro Vargas called 911 and told dispatchers he was being harassed by someone using witchcraft against him. NBC 6's Myriam Masihy has the story.
Just hours before going on a shooting rampage at his Hialeah apartment complex, gunman Pedro Vargas called 911 and told dispatchers he was being harassed by someone using witchcraft against him.
The 12-minute call, released by Hialeah Police, was made at 1:37 p.m. on July 26 from the apartment he lived in with his 83-year-old mother Esperanza Patterson, officials said.
Vargas, who police say had no criminal record, can be heard telling the dispatcher in Spanish that someone was following him and using witchcraft against him. He told the dispatcher he was suspicious of a car parked outside the apartment building that he knew did not belong to anyone living there.
After the dispatcher told Vargas she could not run the plate number, she asked to speak with Patterson. The elderly woman told the dispatcher he was not usually like that and seemd to be having a panic attack. Patterson also said she slipped two Xanax pills in his lunch to see if he would calm down.
During the call, Patterson told the dispatcher she was concerned because he was going out to get a canister of gasoline, even though he didn't need it. She said he was traumatized by something he had put on the Internet.
The dispatcher asked Patterson to decide whether or not she wanted officers sent over and Patterson initially responded with some uncertainty. At first she pleaded that officers were not necessary and said she did not want her son to think she was his enemy.
"Do I cancel the call or not because I already have two police officers on their way over there," the dispatcher finally asked.
"Cancel," Patterson said. "Because he's not here."
At one point during the 911 call, Vargas had told the dispatcher the witchcraft began with a lawyer named 'Castillo.'
Two hours later, Vargas showed up unannounced at the law office of Angel Castillo, the attorney who deposed Vargas as part of an ongoing investigation by Bullet Line to determine who had been sending abusive emails and text messages to its employees and customers.
Vargas, employed by a staffing company named Westaff, worked on temporary assignment for Bullet Line as a graphic designer, according to Castillo. He was laid off in October due to lack of work and began sending the offensive and harassing emails, Castillo said.
Vargas admitted to Castillo during the deposition that he had been the one who sent the messages.
"In my mind I thought that he sounded sincere and contrite," Castillo said.
In an email apology he sent to a Bullet Line representative, Vargas said he was sorry for the comments he had made.
"I feel I owe you a personal apology for my insensitive comments, disrespectful and deceiving mails," he said. "I accept full responsibility for what happened. The main reason, I believe it is, I was sad to stop seeing you guys, enjoying lunch in your company and not been able to participate at the new place. Don't believe me, but I am pouring tears right now."
Officials believe the legal case may have been a motive behind the shooting, reported The Miami Herald. Vargas allegedly told his mother that he might lose money because of the case and a negotiator said Vargas muttered something about a court subpoena during the hostage situation, the newspaper reported.
Documents show this was not the first time Vargas had gotten into trouble with an employer over online activity. In 2008, Vargas was fired from his job as an instructional support specialist at Miami Dade College after downloading files such as "1000 hacking tutorials" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex," according to documents released Tuesday.
Although officials have said Vargas most likely went to Castillo's office with the intent of killing him, Castillo said he doesn't believe he had the intention of causing any harm.
"I don’t agree with the speculation that he went to my office intending to cause me, or anyone else, any harm, especially because he was treated courteously during his deposition and was not told that any other legal action was going to be taken against him by Bullet Line," Castillo said in an e-mail statement to NBC 6. "In fact, the company immediately decided after he accepted responsibility for his inexcusable campaign of harassing messages, and apologized that no further action was warranted under the circumstances. Nonetheless, since I don’t know what he had in mind at that time I am happy that I was not in my office at that time."
A few hours later, at about 6:30 p.m., Vargas set $10,000 on fire in apartment 408 at 1485 West 46th Street where he lived, officials said. He shot and killed building managers Italo Pisciotti, 79, and Camira Pisciotti, 69, who ran over when they saw smoke coming out of the unit.
He then went on to shoot and kill four others before holding two hostage in an eight-hour standoff that ended with his own death.
Among the dead were neighbor Patricio Simono, 64, his wife Merly S. Niebles, 51, and Niebles' 17-year-old daughter Priscilla Perez. Carlos Javier Gavilanes, 33, was shot and killed in a hail of random gunfire as he arrived home at the apartment complex across the street.
The two hostages, Zoeb and Sarrida Nek, were unharmed. Erlen Ortega, a nurse at a Hialeah medical center, said Vargas' mother had been hospitalized since her son went on the shooting spree.
Loved ones of the Pisciottis remembered the hard-working couple at their viewing at the Vista Memorial Gardens & Funeral Home in Miami Lakes Wednesday night.
Emily Lindel said they were an important part of her childhood. The Pisciottis saw her grow up.
"It hit close to home. I was raised in Hialeah and I immediately called my dad. It's a shame," she said.
Lindel's father, and others like Victor Acosta, who attended the viewing, spent every Saturday at a Carol City park with Italo Pisciotti. They would play ball, and reminisce about Colombia.
In Hialeah, family and friends said their goodbyes to Niebles and Perez at the San Jose Funeral Home.
"This is not supposed to happen here in Hialeah. Hialeah is a good community, working-class community, with good families," State Sen. Rene Garcia said.
Officials said Vargas used a 9mm pistol during the shooting and had several rounds of live ammunition when SWAT confronted him.
According to Alex Perez, owner of the Florida Gun Center, Vargas legally bought a Glock 17 Gen4 there three years ago in October 2010. Police have not yet confirmed if that was the gun Vargas used in the shooting.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott thanked members of the Hialeah Police Department and SWAT team Wednesday for their work rescuing the hostages.
"Your heart goes out to families, the individuals that were impacted, but also I just wanted to thank you for what you did, it can't be easy to put your lives at risk," Scott told the officers. "If it wasn't for individuals like you, we wouldn't have the safety we have."
Read more about the governor's response here.
A fund was set up for the families of the victims. Checks can be sent, payable to Survivors Pathway, City of Hialeah, PO Box 138882, Hialeah, Florida, 33013.
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